5 is here to celebrate and connect people and organisations who are having a positive impact on the world. In this series of interviews we give a high 5 to these inspiring people – and ask them to pass it on to someone who has inspired them.
Meet Ariana Ahmadzada, founder of Plastic Free Amsterdam, an online store that wants to help people reduce their plastic consumption by substituting all those single-use products we use in our daily lives.
Ariana told us what inspired her to go plastic-free, why it’s important to start small… and who she’d like to give a High 5 to.
What inspired you to do what you do?
I always wanted to do something in the medical field, but that didn’t work out. So I started studying science, business and innovation with a specialisation in energy and sustainability.
At the same time I watched the documentary A Plastic Ocean, which shows how our oceans are filled with plastic, and how a lot of animals like birds and fish are dying because of it. And I am vegan, so I realised that it didn’t make sense for me not to eat meat or any animal products, while not being just as mindful about my plastic consumption.
Then a friend of mine who develops websites was looking for an idea to develop, and since I couldn’t find any good plastic-free stores in the Netherlands, we decided to combine the idea of following a plastic-free lifestyle with our expertise, and that’s how Plastic Free Amsterdam was born. Within a month we had the store online, carrying about 15 products. And from there it kept growing and growing. Today, two years later, we have more than a thousand products.
Now I am working with it full time, while writing a thesis on consumer behaviour towards sustainable packaging. It’s been great to be able to combine the project with my studies.
About Plastic Free Amsterdam
Plastic Free Amsterdam is an online store on a mission to help people reduce their plastic waste and swap single-use products for more sustainable alternatives. From bamboo toothbrushes to reusable baking liners, the store offers eco-friendly substitutes for almost everything you use in your daily life.
What advice would you give to others who want to make a positive impact?
Definitely do your research, watch documentaries, follow people that inspire you. Before starting Plastic Free Amsterdam, I didn’t know anything. If you tell someone they shouldn’t use plastic, they might not know why – they have to think on their own, find that personal connection to it. In my case I stopped using plastic because of its impact on animals.
And also start small, don’t try to do everything at once, because then you’ll fail. I tried it myself, going 100% plastic-free, but it’s really hard sometimes. Instead look at what you use, look at what you eat, see where you can make easy changes. Talk to people, but don’t force it on them. Create open environments where you can teach each other.
Who do you want to pass a High 5 on to?
The person that has inspired me the most in this journey is Beth Noy, the founder of Plastic Freedom. She has always been very active on Instagram, showing a lot of behind the scenes, but also a lot about her life: how she was struggling and how it’s sometimes really hard to have a business on your own. That’s what inspired me, she was very open about all the aspects of a plastic-free lifestyle and having a business. Showing that it’s not easy, and that nobody is perfect. And on top of that she’s a girl and she’s kicking ass. So I thought, why can’t I do it too?